A Little Inspiration
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Kelly Park Says Getting Naked For Carson Kressley Changed Her Life
How To Look Good Naked, Lifetime's double-dare, self-esteem building reality show hosted by Carson Kressley, kicks off its second season [watch a preview] with a brand new make-over star on July 22. Her name is Kelly Park. She's a 39-year-old working mom, married for 12 years, who fell out of love with her body and herself. Kelly spoke with Fancast’s Quendrith Johnson about her incredible transformation from a woman who hid her figure in maternity sizes to showing off her new sexy styling self thanks to Carson and his HTLGN crew. Here's her story in her own words:
Why did I go on ‘How To Look Good Naked’? Good question. I didn’t like the way I looked, and I didn’t like myself. But that wasn’t always the case. I grew up a poor black girl in Philly. My family struggled. We never had enough food. But as I got older, I loved my body. I had a thin waist and beautiful little breasts. I was hot.
Then I got married, had a baby, and my body started to change. Things shifted. I went through this time when I woke up in the middle of the night and I discovered this strange white stuff on my nipple. I had no idea why. For two weeks, I thought I had cancer. What else could it have been? Then I figured out it was deodorant. My breasts had grown so large that they slid in my underarms. Okay?
I stopped paying attention to who I was. I didn’t feel like my body was cute anymore. I stopped wearing cute clothes. Seven or eight months after I had my daughter, I looked at myself standing completely naked and I simply could not believe that was my body.' What happened? Where did it go? My stomach has rolls and lines. I had stretch marks. Things were hanging. I just wasn't the same person.
And it freaked me out. I used to look at myself in car windows! Then I started to feel invisible in the sense that my mom, who’s in her early sixties, started talking to me about as women get older, not just get bigger - as they age, they become invisible. Men just don't find them as attractive. I thought, 'wow, I'm going through that now, and I'm in my early 30's!'
Then I saw the casting notice for ‘How To Look Good Naked.’ I watched it for a couple weeks. I was like 'yeah, yeah.' Then something moved me, and I said to myself, 'You know what? I'm going to audition for this. I think this [sort of experience] is what I may need in my life.'”
I didn't tell my husband. I didn't tell anyone. I went in, and I auditioned. That was a dramatic process itself. It was kind of like Nip/Tuck in a way. The producers were like 'Tell me what you don't like about your body,’ and I really exposed myself. What did I have to lose? So I told them everything, starting from when I was a kid to the present day and how I felt like my dreams had been deferred because of the way I viewed myself. I even revealed how I am with my husband in private, our relations. I couldn’t believe the things I said.
Then, a couple days later, they called me back. As I talked to them on the phone, my husband asked, 'Who's that?' I said, “Oh, yeah, I auditioned for `How to Look Good Naked.’ He was like, 'WHAT!?' I said, “I auditioned for this incredible show, I think it can help me.”
I had no idea you had to get totally undressed. When I watched the very first episode of 'How to Look Good Naked,’ I never really saw the point where she took all her clothes off. I just saw the photo shoot. I thought yeah, maybe this is something I can do. I can just sit and talk to Carson!' I didn't know actually getting butt naked was part of the process!
But by the time they called me and said 'we want you on the show,' I was so ready for change, for whatever they told me to do. I remember talking to Carson, and he asked, “Do you trust me? Do you trust me on this journey that I am going to help you realize who you are?'”
I said, “You know what? Yes! Yes!”
At that point, there was no diet that was going to fix me, no self-help book that was going to help me. I had done all that, all of that stuff and it didn't work. I could not accept who I was; I would not accept it. I needed something drastic.
Carson also opened up to me. He told me about his life as an entertainer. He said it had been difficult for him as a gay man to become something in show business, to get himself to the next level. But he had trusted himself, believed in his own abilities, and he asked me to do the same in myself.
He said, “I just need you to rely on yourself. Always trust yourself. Do whatever you need to do to get to the next level in your life -- to reach happiness, to reach that nirvana.”
He was extremely spiritual, and highly intelligent! I must say! It was a bit shocked by that. I thought wow, Carson Kressley is really smart. I also related in an unexpected way. Being a gay man, Carson was very sensitive to my issues. Because he's been through it; he's been through something. I could relate to what he's been through, being a woman of color. Both of us had faced, and overcome adversities in our lives.
But the point where I (totally) trusted him was on the second day. We were in a beautiful loft. Carson took me aside and said, “I need you to trust this part of the process. Take a deep breath, because we are going to start the healing now.”
Then he took me over to the mirror and we stood and looked at my reflection. Neither of us spoke. It was very powerful. Finally, he said, “Okay, now that you see yourself in your jeans and your 'maternity' shirt'' -- which I did wear maternity clothes, which was hilarious – “I need you to strip your clothes off.”
I was blown away when he asked me to do that. First, the whole Lifetime crew was there. Can you imagine that? It was a good 15 to 20 people. There was absolutely no privacy. If it was just Carson and me, I would’ve been sure, no problem. But there was an audience, and I hesitated. But he said, “I need you to do this.'”
I took off my clothes – except for my underwear. They told me to leave that on.
Still, I was sweating so much that I thought I was peeing on myself. Seriously. There was sweat running down the back of my thighs. I was terrified for the first three minutes. I showed my breasts, my underarms -- the things I thought were unsightly! And Carson didn't think anything of it. He was like, “You have a body! This is what it is.”
Normally when I looked at myself in the mirror, I only saw the things that I thought were ugly, horrible and tragic. But what was really powerful was that when Carson and I looked in the mirror together, he just kept pointing out the things that were beautiful about me. I never looked at my shoulders the way he looked at my shoulders. Or my wrists. Or the backs of my calves.
At that point, I was so in the moment and, thanks to Carson, already starting to feel better about myself – and we were just getting started. We shot for seven days. Behind the scenes, I talked to the crew, some incredible, beautiful women, and they told me their issues. I was like, wow, I’m not alone. I saw that stuff on "Oprah,” but to really talk about it? It made me feel better.
The process was still difficult. For the first two days I cried like a child in the shower. I wanted to change my body, but nothing was going to change it overnight. In the meantime, I had to learn to accept my body as it was. Yes, I wanted to change, but this was my body, this was what I had to work with, this was me. I remember standing there saying, “You can’t hide anymore. You’re losing opportunities, losing in love, just losing…”
One day, I was sitting in a chair talking to the director, crying about everything I felt that I had lost in my life due to the fact that I couldn't accept my body. Suddenly Riaz Patel, the showrunner and executive producer, came over, put his hand on my shoulder and looked me dead in my face. '”Listen. I am going to tell you something,” he said. “You a crazy-ass fool.'”
He said it so brilliantly. Because I mean I'm from Philly, that's how we talk. That was the sounding bell. I was done wasting time. I was done losing.
Every day Carson asked, “Did you wake up this morning and say how beautiful you are?” And I said yes. Every day, they accentuated the positive. And it affected me. My husband could not believe how every day when I came home I was a little different, more aware, and kinder to myself.
By the time I got to the photo shoot, I was ready. I mean, this time there was no drama or hesitation. When Carson said it was time, I took my clothes off. I took everything off. I had no underwear on. No bra on. I was completely ready -- and completely naked!
And I loved me. I thought I looked hot again.
Everybody said, “Well, maybe it's the make-up.” No, they did my hair and face, but everything else was au natural. There wasn’t anything on my body. They didn’t even do my toenails. And there wasn’t any photoshopping. When I took off my clothes, there was only one thing different about me, and that was the way I thought about myself. It's 100 percent perception.
I also learned a lot. There were things they told me about putting on a bra that I don't even think my mother knows! Susan Nethero, the show’s 'Bra Whisperer,’ told me about certain underwire you shouldn't wear. Do you know you are never, ever, supposed to put a bra in the washing machine?
She also gave me some of the most incredible panties. I am a big girl, size 14, and I can wear sexy panties!
I thought I couldn't wear dresses because I had a pot belly. But Carson gave me this dress, a Donna Karan, and said, “Do you see your pot belly now?” I said, “NO!" He said, “Now do the catwalk like Naomi Campbell.” I said, “Naomi Campbell ain't got nothin' on me!' Tyra Banks ain't got nothing on me!” Later, after I showed some women that dress, they were amazed that I’d worn it without a girdle. But I did.
I feel like Carson and I were separated at birth. We connected on and off camera. We were so ridiculous together. He was like my fairy godmother, no pun intended! We paid homage to Ethel Merman. I’ve never met anyone like Carson in my life. When you look at him, he's all Armani-ed out with his Prada shoes. But inside, he’s all love.
Carson kept referring to the universe that things happen for a reason, embracing your journey. He said things I always believed and heard and talked about. He said 'you need to love yourself Kelly; it's an insult to the universe if you don't!' He would always say that. He was right.
The best part is that I feel like my journey started when that shoot ended. One day after the shoot, I was at a Starbuck's around the corner from my house. There was a woman in front of me, and her bra was almost up to her neck in the back and the front of her bra was hanging almost down to her knees. It was terrible. I walked up to her and said, “Excuse me, I'm sorry, you have the wrong bra on. I just went through this incredible process -- and I just want to take you in the bathroom and show you my bra.”
So we went into the bathroom together, and I said 'I used to think I was a C; I am an S cup. I want to show you how this bra works. It was the strangest thing, obviously, but she thanked me. I said, “This is just the beginning of the process of changing the way you feel about yourself.'
We need to have a spectrum of beauty, not just one (skinny) type. There’s nothing wrong with that type, but there’s nothing wrong with other types.
I would say to women all across the world, we have to stop loathing ourselves just because we don’t look a certain way. Instead, we have to start loving ourselves no matter how we look.
Let me just say that my sex life is at an all time high! We are so in love again.
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